The 2020 college football season has kicked off, and we’ve already been exposed to both its beauty and messiness. Still, there has been fun action, and most importantly, new tape for a lot of 2021 NFL Draft prospects. The American Athletic Conference (AAC) is one of the conferences that is a full go this year, much to the delight of many draft hopefuls. Who are the five AAC NFL Draft prospects that will benefit the most from the 2020 season?
5 AAC NFL Draft Prospects that benefit from the 2020 season
James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
James Wiggins is a guy that, if he stayed healthy last year, would have been a top-100 pick. However, a torn ACL dashed his draft hopes and knocked him out for the entire 2019 season. Even with that, Wiggins comes back in 2020 as a prospect with the potential to be the biggest riser in a loaded safety group.
The 2021 safety class truly is insane, but Wiggins is going to get a chance to redeem his stock. With incredible ball skills right off the jump, Wiggins already makes a name for himself as a playmaker. However, he is also a chess piece. Wiggins excels in the slot in man coverage with oily hips and excellent eye discipline.
Often, he feels more natural in the box as he has a stocky body and likes to lay out some hard contact. Before his injury, he was a good athlete as well, so hopefully, that athleticism is still there. If Wiggins can return to form, he has a legitimate chance to be a day-two pick due to his versatility and playmaking skills out of a variety of schemes.
Patrick Johnson, DE, Tulane
Patrick Johnson is not a big name right now — but by the end of the season, he could very well be getting hype similar to what Alex Highsmith got last season. Johnson is a potent edge rusher with a ton of good traits. First of all, he is explosive off the snap. He is very athletic, and it shows. Johnson’s ability to bend around the arc with good functional flexibility is impressive.
Johnson has proven to be versatile, and Tulane lines him up all over the formation, including at off-ball linebacker. Still, with his traits, he does fit nicely as an edge rusher. He plays with good leverage and converts his explosiveness to power well with a legitimate bull rush. The toolbox for Johnson is huge. The only keys for him to work on is his pass rush plan and cleaner hand usage. Johnson does not keep his pads clean enough and invites contact into his chest. If he can fix those critical issues, his stock could skyrocket.
Allie Green, CB, Tulsa
Among the five guys here, Allie Green strikes me as the most intriguing of them all. He is a virtual no name at this point to most, but his traits are ridiculous. Green is 6’3″ and has some serious wheels on him. The long speed is not going to be an issue for him at all.
However, where Green will strike paydirt with his value is his length and press-man coverage abilities. He is a pesky press corner and does a great job of using the sideline as a weapon when he is in coverage. Usually, guys like Green are pretty raw, but he is decently polished already. Green has good functional strength and can disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage. Even for a guy his size, he has pretty good hips. The key for him will be mastering his discipline with his eyes and hips. The traits are all there for Green to be a riser and starter at the NFL level.
Richie Grant, S, UCF
Similar to Wiggins, Richie Grant is a fun safety prospect that has some things to prove this year. After a down year that showcased some inconsistent processing and aggressive play, Grant is looking to improve in both of those areas. If you watch the tape, it is easy to see the appeal of a guy like Grant.
Grant has fantastic athleticism and covers a lot of ground on the backend of the Golden Knights’ defense. His presence as a single-high safety can take away boundary throws if he keys in on it correctly. Grant also can play overhang and fill in man coverage from the slot. As a tackler, Grant is precise and usually rather dependable. It is mostly his mental game that needs work, as he can get caught napping as a result. If Grant can improve that, he should be a Top-4 round pick.
Ifeanyi Maijeh, DL, Temple
Maijeh is a traits-based defensive lineman to the core. He is a natural penetrator with an explosive first step and quick change of direction skills to work through small gaps in the offensive line. Maijeh takes advantage of his somewhat smaller stature and wins the leverage game more often than not. His pad level and explosiveness give him some of the best speed-to-power conversion in the class. Despite being small, Maijeh has surprisingly long arms and stacks and sheds well. That should allow him to move up and down the line.
Maijeh’s issues mostly come in hand usage. He is very much a one or two strategy attack guy who relies too much on his explosiveness and power to get him wins against offensive lineman. When facing better offensive lineman, Maijeh can be stood up and without any counters. There has to be some strategy to his pass rush plan besides just relying on his traits. If he can expand that aspect of his game, Maijeh is an intriguing prospect who can be a quick riser.